Articles by Business Journal Senior Writer Tiffany Rider;
Photographs by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville
December 4, 2012 - Over the past year, the Long Beach Business Journal has featured a quarterly focus on women in business, highlighting small business owners in Long Beach and Signal Hill who either own their business outright or are co-owners with a business partner or spouse.
Each woman was asked the following question: What is your biggest challenge moving your business forward? Some of their responses were similar – the economy continues to be a difficulty for businesses across different sectors.
Other local women business owners found that challenge to be within themselves – fear, being one – and some endured the most strain on their business just working with the city through permitting and meeting standards and requirements from various departments.
The following 15 women share their stories of starting their businesses, what they’ve achieved as entrepreneurs and also give us a glimpse of what’s next for their business.
144 Linden Ave., Long Beach
Angela Dunton has used her background in restaurant and hospitality design to help create a neighborhood wine bar and lounge in Downtown Long Beach.
District Wine is the product of Dunton and her husband Mark, a former band teacher. Before they were married, Dunton was laid off from her previous job in high-end hospitality because demand was low, and her husband-to-be was seeing his band classes being cut. The two pooled their money to start their first brick-and-mortar business.
“We lived in the neighborhood and spotted the space two years ahead of when we opened,” Dunton said. “It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time.” Dunton started on business plans in 2008, finalized it and got permits in 2009, leased the space and held a grand opening for District Wine in April 2010. The wine bar and lounge offers wine tastings every day and also has a wine retail shop.District Wine also has a craft beer list and a menu of heavy appetizers and gourmet flatbread pizzas.
While she didn’t take formal sommelier classes, she has taken lessons in wine pairings and doing her own research reading books and doing tastings. “I had worked in the restaurant industry before, through college and after,” Dunton said. “I went to school in Santa Barbara, so I worked in a lot of fine dining restaurants there and always wanted to go into it. I did the restaurant design side for that.”
Business has been good, Dunton said, maintaining local support and growing a customer base even beyond Long Beach. “We are expanding our base to bring in new [customers] continually,” she said. “We’re finding people are coming from Orange County and Los Angeles as a halfway point.”
While it’s nice for business to have new clientele, Dunton said it has been a challenge trying to reach those new customers without alienating District Wine’s local base. “We try to form a personal connection with our customers,” she said. “We want to let them know that they are the reason we can be here.”
Another challenge, she said, is keeping to the concept of District Wine while also coming up with new and fresh ideas. “That way, for those who have been coming here for two-plus years, it’s not always the same thing,” Dunton said. “There’s something new to look forward to.”
The restaurant was originally open from 4 p.m. through the evening only, but recently began opening earlier for the lunch crowd on select days. “We are not quite a bar and not quite a restaurant,” Dunton said. “It’s a nice meeting area. We try to make people feel like they’re coming into our home, not just another restaurant.”
3747 Worsham, Suite 201, Long Beach
A podiatrist by trade, Dr. Victoria “Vikki” Foley and her assistant, Dr. Connie Ornelas, work with patients on foot and ankle issues at the new office in Douglas Park. She and Ornelas are the only female doctors in the building, Foley said, and it is the first medical office in the business park. The two moved in on October 19.
Foley has been practicing podiatry in Long Beach for more than a decade. She discovered podiatry while studying kinesiology and playing soccer at UCLA. “I was very interested in sports medicine,” Foley said. “I knew I wanted to go into graduate school and medicine of some sort. At that time, in the 1990s, podiatry was going to be one of the top 10 areas to go into because of sports and the aging population. Then, when I looked at it closer, it was a really good specialty for women to get residencies in surgery. It also is a specialty where you can have a personal life as well, so you can set your hours.”
Foley completed her medical residency in Norwalk before working in Artesia with another doctor. While still working in Artesia, Foley met a female doctor in Long Beach and began renting from her. Ten years ago she decided she wanted to have her own office.
“It was something I always wanted to do, to have my own office,” Foley said. “You learn a lot about medicine in medical school but you don’t learn about business. I had to be out for a little while before I was comfortable doing the whole thing myself.” She rented an office on Woodruff Avenue and had practiced there until this year, when she went in with several doctors to purchase the medical building at Douglas Park.
The building has four different offices with four different specialties. Foley’s office hosts her practice, which treats the whole family – children to seniors. In addition to surgery and treatment, Foley offers shoe education and preventative medicine education.
The biggest challenge for Foley in moving her business forward is the impending changes in healthcare. “Nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” she said. “I really want to stay in private practice. That has always been my goal, to stay in private practice and not be an employee under a big corporation. The one thing that is going to start changing with the changing healthcare is that it is going to be more consumer-driven in some aspects. Because people are going to be paying more, they’re going to start paying attention more to cost.”
3740 Atlantic Ave., Suite 201, Long Beach
Kiecher Payne is in the business of helping others relax and find peace. Through Everyday Zen Relaxation Studio, she is doing just that.
Payne has been a licensed massage therapist since 2002, studying advanced techniques and alternative healing. After she earned her license, Payne moved to Europe. When she returned, Payne decided she wanted to create a space for healing, her way. She was studying Zen Buddhism in Los Angeles at the time, and came up with the name Everyday Zen to focus on peacefulness and going with the flow.
“What Buddhism teaches is what I wanted to impart to my clients,” Payne said. “To be in the present moment and surrender to whatever is happening.” Everyday Zen, which opened in 2008, primarily focuses on massage, facials, waxing and alternative healing. The employees at Everyday Zen consider themselves to be healers and therapists.
In terms of alternative healing, Payne said Everyday Zen offers deep emotional healing, called energy work, as well as working with people on journaling and offering meditation classes. Therapists at the studio also use healing stones, aromatherapy and Tarot cards in their work. These items are for sale in the studio’s boutique, along with teas, chocolate, herbs, candles, music and other relaxation tools.
Everyday Zen is Payne’s first business. “We started off with zero clients and now I think we have 3,500 clients,” she said. “I had a lemonade stand when I was eight years old. I’ve always wanted to offer people something since I was a child. Getting paid for it is the business part. I don’t think I’m a great businesswoman as much as I have big visions.”
While the day-to-day issues of managing the business – making payroll and paying the bills – are difficult, Payne said her biggest challenge now is to figure out how to expand her business to include a travel element.
“I have a vision in my mind of bringing people that are here to far away places on spiritual journeys around the world,” Payne said. She recently took her first trip to Nepal, which is where she would like to begin this new business venture. “Because the work I do is spiritual work, I think it would be beneficial to go to a place like Nepal where religion and life are one – it is a Hindu and Buddhist country – and bring it back and apply it to our materiality,” she said. “People are losing touch with their spirit; they are relying more on their ego. I want them to bring the trust back into their lives so that they aren’t just trying to rationalize everything.”
419-I Shoreline Village Dr., Long Beach
German-born Suzin Lintner has been an entrepreneur since she was a teenager.
“I started selling cutting boards when I was 13,” Lintner said. “My parents both had their own businesses, so I guess it’s in my blood.” Lintner grew up in Canada and moved to California in 1989. Lintner and her husband, Anthony, opened Exotic House of Jerky in Shoreline Village on January 1, 2011. This is her first “real” business, she said, with a brick and mortar location.
The two came up with the idea while on a trip to Morro Bay near San Luis Obispo. Her husband wanted to stop at the House of Jerky store there, and when they returned home to Los Angeles County, Lintner went on the store’s website to download the company logo for a scrapbook. That’s when she found out that the House of Jerky was looking to expand.
“I contacted them and it literally started the ball rolling,” Lintner said. “It’s kind of a loose franchise.” House of Jerky started producing jerky in Southern California 13 years ago, she said, and has since expanded. The headquarters is now based in Indiana. Each store gets to add a word to “House of Jerky,” and the store design is left to the owners.
“We had been looking for something to do, searching for an idea for a business,” Lintner said. “This just fell into our laps. It was perfect.” The jerky sold at Exotic House of Jerky is primarily the House of Jerky brand, but Lintner said she has brought in vegetarian jerky and fish jerky made by other companies. The store boasts five different beef flavors, pork and exotics such as alligator and boar, What makes the jerky at Exotic House of Jerky different from what’s at the grocery store is the lack of preservatives, Lintner said. “It’s like buying at $2 bottle of wine versus a $200 bottle of wine,” she said. “It’s just a lot better quality. It’s all very natural and healthy for you.” The shop also has variety packs that make good holiday gifts, she said.
In the next year, Lintner said she and her husband would like to open a second location. “It’s really hard because we’re in Shoreline Village,” she said, which tends to attract crowds during the warmer, dryer seasons. “Right now we’re really struggling because there are no people down here. That’s been our biggest challenge.”
Lintner said they are exploring their options, looking at Belmont Shore as well as other touristy locations in the Los Angeles area. “This business has become our life and we’re working really hard,” she said. “We’re proud of what we’ve done.”
1823 Ximeno Ave., Long Beach
Janis Krantz loves jewelry, but hates jewelry stores. That’s why when she opened her own in 1991, Krantz wanted to make sure her store – J&L Jewelry – offered an experience that is comfortable, without pressure and almost like home.
Krantz got her start in the jewelry business in 1967 in Lakewood. She got a job in the jewelry concessions at Cal Stores, the first discount department store in Southern California, she said. Krantz was going to college to become an executive secretary when she was hired to help with “inventories” and “extending of cost.” She ended up working for the department store for 19 years. From there, Krantz worked at a jeweler in Cypress for about six or eight years before opening her own store in her hometown of Long Beach.
“I’m now enjoying the jewelry business,” Krantz said. “I have my family working with me and close friends, so it’s a different jewelry environment.” She was born and raised here, attending Long Beach schools and churches, and is proud to have a small business in her home community. “It’s way different” from working at the department store, she said. “Each department was a separate business under one roof. They tried to make it like a family, but it really wasn’t. Now I get to make my own rules.”
J&L Jewelry offers custom jewelry design, watch brands, watch repair, manufacturing, engraving, consignment and more. The business has been a member of the Long Beach Executives Association for more than 20 years, and Krantz is involved in charitable giving throughout the city. “For me, if you give back to the community it seems to give back to you,” she said. “We support a lot of the charities here in Long Beach, as well as the schools and churches. We want to be involved in the community. We want to have a name out there that people can trust. We want to help them, and hopefully they will help us stay in business and thrive.”
Krantz’s employees are not working for a commission, which she said helps alleviate pressure in a sales environment. While J&L Jewelry maintains a loyal client base, Krantz said her biggest challenge is finding new business. “We’re trying to find new customers and new ways of making business,” she said. “We try to advertise in local papers and find something that might be interesting to people, an ad or a $2 watch battery, that way they can find us and continue to be customers. We want to be a neighborhood jewelry store; that’s my focus and goal.”
4716 E. 2nd St., Long Beach
Though engineer-turned-restaurateur Lisa Ramelow isn’t Italian, La Strada Restaurant has offered Tuscan confections to Belmont Shore residents and visitors for decades.
“My father opened the restaurant as a business venture with a partner,” she said. The business began to falter when her dad found out his partner was stealing from the business. To remedy the situation, Ramelow bought the business in 1993. “The only experience I had was working at a coffee shop,” she admitted. “I’m not Italian. I can’t cook. But I love Italian food.”
A widowed Ramelow had a career as an engineer, taking care of her kids. The opportunity to run the restaurant allowed her to set hours around her children’s schedules. “I think my dad wanted me to get out of the house again,” she said.
Ramelow learned the business on the job, gaining expertise from her employees on how a restaurant functions. She also attended seminars and read books, learning not only about the industry but the basics of running a business – scheduling, doing payroll and other necessary tasks. “There’s so much more to it than I knew getting into it,” Ramelow said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d want to own a business. Now I have it all down.”
Her biggest challenging moving her business forward has been economic uncertainty on the national level, which continues to trickle down to local mom-and-pop businesses like hers. “I have lost money in the last two years,” she said. “I turned it around this year; it’s getting better. I have this staff of young people working for me, 20 of them now, and they have become stellar because they know there aren’t many jobs out there.”
The tough economy helped Ramelow step outside the box, leading her to do things she wouldn’t normally do. “I repelled off the Hyatt for Special Olympics, and I danced to raise money for Long Beach Memorial [Medical Center],” she said. “I think those things are so important. I’ve always given gift certificates to silent auctions, thinking they would bring me new business, but it brings in the regulars. But it’s such a simple thing to do to make a difference.”
While Ramelow said her location isn’t ideal on 2nd Street – being that La Strada is on the north end with another Italian restaurant across the street – she works to maintain support for her business and others around her. “We all help each other by letting people know what’s here,” she said.
4131 Norse Way, Long Beach
From peanut butter and jelly to red velvet, kiwi and “death by chocolate,” Karie Foster serves signature confections in Long Beach from her bakery Miss Priss Cupcakes.
Foster, an avid cook and baker, always enjoyed entertaining guests. She spent a decade in real estate and, realizing “the market was coming to a halt,” Foster began looking for a new career. In 2007, her best friend asked Foster to bake cupcakes for her daughter’s birthday party. The children and adults alike were impressed by her baking abilities.
“I did a huge table-scape with chocolate letters on the cupcakes and made it very pretty and festive,” she said. “That night at the party, there was this big burly guy, and he was licking his fingers. He said, ‘Who made these cupcakes? I don’t eat sweets, but these are the best things I’ve ever eaten.’ This girl pointed to me and said, ‘Karie did,’ and he told me, ‘You have got to sell them.’”
Foster mulled the idea that night, thinking about the trends in the cupcake business with brands like Sprinkles. She put together a business plan by that November and set out looking for a location. One month later, she saw a lease sign in the window at 4131 Norse Way, near Long Beach City College, and that was it. Foster found an architect, dealt with the proper city departments and learned about everything necessary to open up her cupcake shop. “I got a quick lesson on what it takes to open up a business,” she said. “I went in with the attitude that this is only swimming. There’s no sinking.” Her grand opening was held May 8, 2008.
Today Miss Priss Cupcakes produces 20 flavors a day in three different sizes – “biddle” (mini), regular and “big daddy” (large). She has more recently experimented with alcohol infused cupcakes, adding alcohol to the frosting and in the cake. “We even did a cupcake called the Tribute to Twinkie,” Foster said. Miss Priss Cupcakes has maintained a loyal client base and continues to garner new business.
Foster’s next goal is to have a second shop, but more of a café style with a light menu called Thin Priss along with a regular menu of sandwiches, soups and salads. “I’m talking to an investor to work with me on that,” she said. Foster said the biggest challenge in doing anything is fear. “It will hold you back every time,” she said. “You just have to slap fear in the face, put a smile on and go do it.”
2752 E. Broadway, Long Beach
When people first hear about Moss & Rock, they tend to think the business is nature-related, according to owner Cat Madrid-Barone.
Not so. The name comes from Madrid-Barone’s fandom of fashion model Kate Moss and of rock music. “Growing up, I thought would work in the music industry,” she said. Madrid-Barone studied advertising and public relations at California State University, Fullerton while continuing to work in retail. She has 17 years of experience in the retail industry under her belt, working her way from sweeping the floors to managing 12 stores.
Her experience in retail allowed her to learn how various retail businesses function and to become aware of what worked and what didn’t. “In the back of my mind, I thought about how I wanted to run my own store,” Madrid-Barone said. In 2011, Madrid-Barone moved from Orange County to Long Beach with the concept for Moss & Rock in mind.
“Long Beach is a city that supports small business,” Madrid-Barone said. “I felt like the store concept would thrive here because there’s an appreciation for something different. People will come out and support not only my store, but me.” Madrid-Barone describes Moss & Rock as a fusion of fashion, music and art. She buys clothing, accessories and other products from every decade. The shop has floor-to-ceiling chalkboard walls with designs and messages that are ever changing. She even has a space for bands to play, and books the space about every two months.
“I work really hard, seven days a week,” Madrid-Barone said. “For the niche item, there is a story for each piece in my store. I go to shows and buy brands. I’ve got furniture that I’ve collected over the years.” With the concept solidified, the biggest challenge for Madrid-Barone now is getting the word out. While Moss & Rock has been open for a year, people are still just learning about her business, she said.
Her focus now is raising awareness through word of mouth. “When someone is talking about your store, it’s about the experience,” Madrid-Barone said. “I’m always throwing events. The good thing with that is you obviously want to generate dollars, but sometimes these shows make money and sometimes they don’t. It’s great when it does, and it’s great advertising.”
Madrid-Barone used to advertise in a local community paper, but she said it wasn’t reaching her audience. She also uses social media and online advertising to promote her store. “The hardest thing really is reminding people that you’re here,” she said, “But the good thing about Long Beach is that lots of people want to shop local.”
401 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach
Born and raised in New York, Susan Collida moved to California after just one visit to the Golden State. “I was fortunate to have many great jobs over the years,” she said. The one job that led to the birth of Nostrum was with Coppertone, where she served as production manager. Collida headed up the company’s “Tan, Don’t Litter” campaign in the 1980s, through which Coppertone assisted cash strapped cities by giving them oil drums to be used as trash receptacles near their waterfronts.
The drums were painted Coppertone yellow, and the company paid local youth organizations to plaster marketing materials on the sides of the receptacles. Other companies jumped at the opportunity to use this innovative marketing strategy, Collida said, including K-Earth radio, Jack in the Box and McDonald’s.
When Collida decided to leave Coppertone, the company asked her to continue the program on her own. Thus Collida had her first client for her public relations, marketing and advertising agency. Nostrum, defined as a device to remedy social or political ills, began in Cerritos in 1981. About four years later, Collida moved the business to Long Beach.
Nostrum maintains several local clients, including the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach Transit, Torrance Memorial Hospital and others. “We are probably the best agency in Long Beach,” Collida said. “We are local, and I’ve worked with everybody from the city and through the DLBA (Downtown Long Beach Associates). We had the Port of Long Beach. We rebranded Long Beach City College. For the most part, there are not many places in Long Beach that are large entities that we have not worked with or continue to work with.”
The next chapter for Nostrum has been unfolding over the past several years, Collida said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a partner in the Middle East in an emerging market,” she said, noting that Nostrum may be able to have an agency or two based in either Qatar or Lebanon. The partner is Pragmatech, a premiere technology company in the Middle East, and Collida said her agency has been working with them on websites and developing programs.
Collida said technology is both a blessing and a curse in that clients now think they can set up their own websites and online marketing without a plan, just because they have a computer. “They think they can do their own creative, do their own designs, even social media,” Collida said. “They think they can go ahead because they have these tools. It’s frustrating because it still requires a strategy, a tremendous amount of effort, follow-through and continuity to maintain or sustain any type of brand. They just settle for less now than they ever have, and that is unfortunate.”
3780 Kilroy Airport Way, Suite 200, PMB #213, Long Beach.
For just over two years, Teri Gray has been assisting healthcare professionals and trained support staff to find work through her business, PeopleSolutions Healthcare Staffing.
“When people come in my door, I am so mindful that where they are in their careers may be vulnerable. I really try to take as good care of them as we can,” Gray said. She holds a master’s degree in public health and has worked in several other business related positions, including directing and managing her own nonprofit agency.
“I have experience running budgets, managing staff, program development and program oversight,” she said. “As you go through life, you don’t realize these bits and pieces of experience you get accumulates into this ball of knowledge you draw from. I look back on my life and my careers and all of it has accumulated [so that I can] now run this business.”
Gray works with a business consultant who has staffing experience to help out-of-work individuals with training in healthcare – from radiology to nursing, phlebotomy to X-Ray technicians, medical billing and more – understand what it takes to get placed in temporary work that hopefully turns into full-time employment. “That’s one thing that is really enjoyable,” Gray said, “when you match a really good client and a good job opportunity that is a solid fit. It’s gratifying.”
When the business incorporated in 2010, PeopleSolutions had already accumulated some clients. Since then, the company has grown steadily rather than rapidly. “That’s allowed us to get our bearings,” Gray said. “I think if you grow a business too quickly you can lose control of managing the growth. We are able to do that. It’s my business, but my consultant is my partner and helps me to develop the business.”
While the economy remains a challenge, in terms of the hanging uncertainty of decisions to be made by Congress that would impact economic recovery, Gray said she remains optimistic. “Give me lemons and I’ll make lemonade,” she said. “The country will grow and we’ll improve year to year, but the local economy is moving slower.” Though she does worry about what will happen with the “fiscal cliff,” how tax changes are going to impact her business, and the slow recovery locally, she said she has a sense that the job market is improving.
“I’m not negative in my views,” she said. “I’m realistic. I know we’re improving. A lot of business owners are feeling anxiety about covering payroll and everything that comes with [running a] business, but I say moving forward we need to go with the recovery and know we are improving.”
1232 E. Wardlow Rd., Long Beach.
Former journalist Linda Nusbaum is using the investigative skills she learned as a broadcast reporter at her new practice, The Relationship Counseling Center of Long Beach, as a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT).
Nusbaum was a broadcast journalist for 23 years, living in West Los Angeles, before she decided she wanted to do something “more meaningful.” In 2002, she began her transition into the world of therapy. “I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a journalist; it makes me feel more comfortable digging and asking questions,” Nusbaum said. “I now feel comfortable and happy,” as a therapist.
While she studied therapy, Nusbaum gravitated toward working with couples. “I didn’t know working with couples would be something I would be good at,” she said. “It happened naturally working with different people. This is really my path and it was a pleasure to open my new center.”
Nusbaum, who has been living in Long Beach for about 15 years, opened The Relationship Counseling Center of Long Beach on March 1. “I had been renting an office in another part of Long Beach for four years but had been dreaming about getting out of my lease and opening my own place,” she said. “I just feel like I have to pick up all the papers and empty the trashcans. It’s my baby. I have a lot of joy being here.”
Nusbaum said it has been a pleasure to work in Long Beach and has been thrilled by the “welcoming nature of the people” that see her for counseling.
With the assistance of MFT interns, the center focuses on therapy for couples, individual relationships with family members and individual relationships with coworkers. The center is open by appointment only. An ongoing challenge for people in therapy practice is to understand the flow of clients and their needs, Nusbaum said.
“Therapy is always in flux,” she said. “So in a way, you always have to be available to new clients because you always have to fill your roster because people are always leaving. That is a good thing. You want people to feel good about themselves. People do grow out of therapy, at least in my practice. There is a sense that I welcome new people all the time. But to do that, I have to maintain a very viable web space and keep that completely up to date.”
Starting this month, Nusbaum will host a live U-Stream web show with her speaking about relationships for approximately 30 minutes once a week. “It’s about putting the information out there,” she said. “Then they will come in for counseling.”
4232 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach
Long Beach businesswoman Silvia Quinones not only owns National Cleaners on Cherry Avenue in Long Beach, but also exercises her creativity through her hair salon in Bixby Knolls.
Quinones opened Salon Medusa in 2008 after her children had grown and she had more free time to do her creative thing. “Now my son’s in college, so I have plenty of time to devote to both businesses,” she said.
Quinones’ background in hair began when she attended beauty school at Vidal Sassoon in the 1980s. She worked in the Beverly Hills area for about 15 years, saving up with her familty to buy National Cleaners locations on Cherry Avenue and on Redondo Avenue in 1991. She left the Beverly Hills area in 1994 after her second child was born.
“It was too much running two dry cleaning stores and having two kids and commuting,” Quinones said. When her kids got a bit older, Quinones went back to work in beauty by getting a job at Emporio Provatta, a salon near Costco that used to be close to her dry cleaning business on Cherry Avenue.
It was about this time that Quinones recalled the dream of her youth – opening her own salon. “I always thought of it when I was young, but when we (her family) bought the dry cleaning store [my dream] just went out the window,” she said. In 2008, Quinones took a job at Salon Medusa and soon bought the business from the owner. “The owner, a longshoreman, had bought it for investment purposes,” she said. As part of the deal, she wanted all of the stylists to stay so she could build the business with them.
It started out in the red, but each year Quinones involved the salon in Bixby Knoll’s First Fridays events. In August 2009, she brought in the all-natural beauty line Aveda. “It took off,” Quinones said. “We love their products. We love their hair color. With so many products having parabens and lead in the makeup and everything that is so harmful to you, we wanted something that is good for you.”
The biggest challenge has been working with the existing space, remodeling it in segments as the business can afford it. “The way it was laid out was impractical,” Quinones said. “We didn’t want to get a huge loan. We do things little by little and make it work so we don’t have to be in much debt.” In November 2011, Quinones had several pillars inside the salon removed and the floor completely redone. That construction was completed in January of this year. When more Aveda products come in, Quinones said they plan to install lighting to spotlight products. She recently added Aveda’s skincare line and will introduce its cosmetic line at the beginning of 2013.
244 Pine Ave., Long Beach
Sometimes it takes an experience to see what is already visible. For Kiana Young, the lack of a hot yoga studio in Long Beach geared toward professionals’ schedules ignited her entrepreneurial drive.
The Purdue University alum, a Los Angeles native, studied business management and economics, with a minor in accounting. Young had been living in Long Beach out of convenience – she was working in Orange County and her family and friends live in L.A. – until she realized about a year ago that she wanted to start her own business – either a café or restaurant.
However, Young soon realized that there are not that many hot yoga studios in Long Beach. “I’ve been doing yoga on and off since I was in college,” she said. “When I was working it was really difficult for me to find a yoga studio that caters to professionals and is within walking distance from downtown. Most studios [I went to] didn’t have a hardwood floor. They just had carpet, which smells after you sweat. And they didn’t have showers.” From this realization, the idea for SunKiss Yoga was born.
SunKiss Yoga classes include several different types of yoga taught in the early morning, during a typical lunch hour and in the evening. All of these forms are taught as hot yoga, meaning the room temperature is set to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity. “In L.A. there are a lot of [yoga studios] to choose from,” Young said. “I couldn’t find any that I liked in Long Beach.” The yoga studio recently added a barré fitness class, and Young said she is planning to add a sculpt class, “just to add variety.” There are currently eight part-time instructors working for SunKiss Yoga.
In opening SunKiss Yoga, her first business venture, Young learned that marketing a startup is difficult. “Although we’re right above Starbucks, it’s difficult,” she said. “A lot of people think we’re hidden because we’re on the second floor. Even beyond the downtown core district, a lot of people don’t really know we’re here.” Another challenge Young faced in opening her business was city guidelines and regulations.
“I think there are a lot of restrictions,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s just because I’m in downtown, or if it’s just the city. I had to do a lot of building improvements that took way longer than anticipated.” Young had to build three showers in her location, which was a significant expense. “The city says they have grants available, but it’s difficult for tenants to get,” she said, since landlords can also apply.
“I’m in my mid-20s and wanted to take a risk,” Young said. “I respect that the city is open to people [who are] new to business. You have to start somewhere.”
5224 E. 2nd St., Long Beach
An anchor tenant on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, Sweet Jill’s Bakery has withstood the test of time – 25 years to be exact – and owner Jill Pharis is preparing for a new chapter.
Born and raised in Nebraska, Pharis came to California for college in 1973. “Being raised on the farm in Nebraska, you couldn’t access store bought food,” she said. “It was my grandmother who taught us how to bake and how to cook.” After graduating from college, Pharis worked as a teacher for 10 years. Her sister began encouraging Pharis to use her passion for baking to start a business, selling her products. It was her sister who found the location on 2nd Street, and by 1987 Pharis opened Sweet Jill’s Bakery.
“It was an immediate success,” Pharis said. “Three years later (in 1991) I opened the store in Seal Beach on Main Street.” Sweet Jill’s Bakery offers an array of baked products, from cakes, cupcakes, cookies, cheesecake bars, cake sandwiches, brownies, 20 different types of muffins and cinnamon rolls. Her success led to an opportunity to be part of the team that won the bid for operations at the new Long Beach Airport Terminal Concourse, opening to the public December 12.
Sometime in September, Pharis said she was told that the building that houses her bakery was in escrow. “I knew it was on the market at an astronomical price, not thinking it would sell,” she said. The building did sell, however, to Baja Fish Tacos out of Orange County. “It will become owner occupied,” Pharis said, forcing existing tenants to relocate.
Fortunately Sweet Jill’s Bakery will remain in Belmont Shore. The location at 5001 E. 2nd St. is becoming available in December, Pharis said. The location is on the opposite side of the street, three blocks up. The new location will have a different look, including a lounging area, a bar area to work in, and a big screen TV with a sofa. Pharis expects to have everything moved and operating again in January.
“We’re working fast and furious,” she said. “Because of the community support, my involvement with the Long Beach Airport and being on 2nd Street for 25 years in a fabulous community with wonderful employees, I wanted to stay. I really have to commend my employees. They have been with me over 20 years, all of them. They are my backbone. They are wonderful.”
Pharis said the increased cost of commodities make it difficult to provide a quality product at a reasonable price. “Everything is astronomically going straight up,” she said. “Because we offer an oversized product that the customer expects and deserves, we want to keep it at a [reasonable] cost.”
931 E. 27th St., Signal Hill
After nearly three decades in outside sales, Shari Blackwell sought the satisfaction of having her own business. In 2003, Blackwell made that dream a reality by purchasing The Undershirt.
The Undershirt is a 32-year-old business founded by two women in Belmont Shore. The company was more of a retail operation printer in the shore, and then moved to Signal Hill to get involved in business-to-business wholesale printing.
Blackwell had worked in sales for steamship, metals, employment and other industries. About 10 years ago she looked at her husband, who was self-employed at the time, and was inspired to purchase and operate her own business.
“We started to look around to buy a small business,” Blackwell said. “I wasn’t specifically looking for this business, but [one of the owners], Joan, was getting ready to retire.” Blackwell bought the business and has since marketed it for the restaurant trade. Her focus is working with clients to develop a look for their restaurant, researching style and product that work well in whatever environment the venue offers.
In addition to restaurateurs, Blackwell works with plumbers, contractors, landscaping companies and more. The Undershirt also does logo embroidery and sells promotional items like blankets, tote bags, duffels and backpacks. Right now she is her only employee. “I’ve had some temporary help,” she said. “I have not hired an individual because it is so erratic. I have brought in someone on an as-needed basis.”
Blackwell is actively involved in the Signal Hill Chamber of Commerce as a current boardmember and past president. She also serves on the Signal Hill Police Chief’s commission for determining awards, such as medals of valor and those for meritorious service.
The biggest challenge in moving her business forward is the lack of confidence in the economy, Blackwell said. “The economy is so erratic. It’s literally like a roller coaster. There’s no consistency. One month we’ll be doing well, then the next we’re down 50 percent. It’s tough to manage cash flow and inventory.” Blackwell does maintain a consistent client base, and during the recession years she has brought in continuous new business.
That business, however, has changed to smaller orders more frequently. Blackwell said this is not cost efficient for her clients nor is it for her business. “They are buying the bare minimum to outfit their employees, not taking advantage of price savings if they were to order in larger quantities,” she said. “So they end up paying more for an item and having less investment overall. They just want to put out the bare minimum to get the job done.”
The Latest News
- High Court Issues Split Decision On Port Of Los Angeles Clean Truck Plan Placard, Parking Restrictions Rejected;
- Long Beach Area Chamber PAC Announces Endorsements For Three 2014 Races
- City Of Long Beach, School District, Others File Suit Against City Of Los Angeles Over Approved Rail Yard Project
- Celebrating Small Business In The Long Beach Area
- Goodwill’s E-Waste Program: A Way For Businesses To Be Green And Give Back
- Payoff Connects Financial Institutions, Consumers By Using Positive Reinforcement In Finance